Here we are in the New Year and my what changes have we seen. Who would have thought that we would experience such changes to our lives.
For most of us, our orchids are one of the few things that have benefited from the extra time and care they have received from their home bound owners. I am seeing a huge resurgence in growing orchids, house plants, and vegetable gardening.
This brings some unexpected challenges. Getting orchid supplies! There is a terrible shortage of orchid bark, sphagnum moss, pots, bamboo stakes, and other orchid related supplies. Some of it is due to a slowdown of harvesting, but much of it is just that the demand is so high. Folks are staying home and working on their plants. Spring is the time when supplies normally become plentiful and garden shops run their advertisements. Hopefully we have enough to hold us until then.
My advise this year is to acquire enough materials, plus some extra. The commercial nurseries have really put a dent in supplies this past summer and fall, and I don't think supplies will improve much. Can you imagine, people are actually hoarding orchid supplies! If you are able to get supplies make sure you store all organic materials in cool dry areas. This will keep them fresh longer and hopefully mold and fungus free.
With all this extra time spent on our orchids, many of us are seeing our orchids blooming better than ever. Hopefully, one day we will have a show again, so we can share their beauty with others.
December 21 officially brings us into winter. It is actually the shortest day of the year, so each day after gets longer. The reason I am exited about this is that for some of us, our orchids are not doing too much and the onset of longer days will encourage more growth from our orchids. But still, this is a good blooming season for Phalaenopsis, complex Paphiopedilums, Cattleyas, Angreacums, and others. Hopefully, our orchids have stored enough energy over the long summer months to give us a flowering holiday spectacular! This Covid 19 year has given me record blooms thus far and I hope to continue my good cultural roll into next year.
Finally it's been a little cooler and combined with the shorter days, I notice that I can really cut back on my watering. In fact, during this last rainy bout, things got over watered and I started to get some Black Rot or Phytophthora. This is the blackening of leaves and stems. It is a fungus that is easily spread by splashing water. As soon as you see the infection starting, get out your torch and pruners and start cutting back the infected tissue. Apply fungicide to the infected orchid and surrounding areas and try to keep them dry and aerated. This nasty fungus gets into the orchids vascular system and can spread rapidly if not controlled.
As fungal infections appear, insect problems tend to lessen, but mollusk (slugs and snail) problems become rampant. We are seeing all kinds of mollusk damage on our Orchid ER website page, so I know what you guys are facing. Your control should be preventative instead of curative, because once the damage is done to the orchid, it may take years for it to recover. So apply your slug/snail bait and make sure you reapply within two weeks to get the new emerging young. In time, you will notice that different pests will attack our orchids at different times of the year, remembering this will allow you to take preventative actions, saving the damage to your valuable collection. My goal, is that soon you will be able to self diagnose your problems and you will no longer need my guidance. Only then will I know that I have succeeded in making you master orchidists!
As we move towards the end of the year, we notice the days becoming shorter. As we mentioned last month, this signals the end of the growing season and the start of the blooming season for many orchids.
Phalaenopsis and single flowering Paphiopedilums will be initiating flower spikes. Make sure that while they are spiking you do not change their alignment to the sun, or the spikes will twist.
Also remember that the sun is dropping towards our horizon in the southerly direction. In other words, southern exposures will be subjected to higher light intensities. This could cause sunburn on leaves.
Also note that the temperatures are finally starting to cool down. Combined with increasing rainfall, watering will need to be cut back. During these times try to let your orchids dry slightly between waterings. This will help to deter fungal infections.
Making these changes in your orchid culture will keep them healthy going into our winter season.
October brings us into fall and hopefully to the end of our dry hot summer. It has been great for the growth of our orchids, but also great for the insect pests.
It is common that flower thrips and spider mites become major problems when it is dry. To avoid this, keep your orchids well hydrated. Don't be afraid to water the orchids from all angles, wetting the top and under the leaves. This is where the thrips and mites feed. Water will greatly disrupt their ability to feed.
Of course, keeping your growing areas tidy by picking up dead or dying leaves and flowers, will prevent future outbreaks. If you are unable to gain control, you might need to treat your areas with Bayer 3 n 1. As things begin to cool down, the pressure from insects will lessen.
Now begins the pay off time, when the orchids start to use all of their stored energy from summer to give us that fall show of flowers. Currently, it is prime time with lots of orchids in bloom. Especially Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, and Vandas. Just in time for the canceled Honolulu Show. But that's alright, I'm having a personal show all for myself! I'm just pleased to see the additional effort put into my orchids are beginning to show. I know you all are seeing great results too!
September puts us in the second half of our hurricane season. So far this season we have been lucky again. As I am writing this, the tropics are exploding with potential storms, in fact the mainland U.S. may possibly be hit with two hurricanes at the same time! I am always concerned about the weather and want to be ready for any potential storm situation. I do not like to rely on the local news weather reporters. You notice that they often have different forecasts. The best information is found online at the NOAA website. Look for Hawaii Satellite Products. Here you will find the most reliable weather reports; they are surprisingly accurate.
This obsession with weather is because my Waianae farm was ravaged by Hurricane Iniki: metal street lamp greenhouse posts were bent, shade cloth was torn, and the orchids went airborne. Imagine orchids and their labels strewn about everywhere and the pots all at the end of the greenhouse. From this I learned an important lesson: affix your orchid label to your orchids, especially your good ones. I now use a hole punch and tie wire, and affix the label to the stake which I tie my orchids to--this way the label stays with the orchid at all times. This also prevents grandchildren from "helping" with your orchids by pulling out the labels.
Other storm preparations include securing loose items in your yard, especially the orchids. No one wants to get hit by a flying orchid plant! Maybe putting your plants in the lanai or garage would be a good solution. Definitely take down hanging orchids, as they will be the first to go. I would do this before the heavy rains, but if the plants are already sopping wet, bringing them indoors can encourage fungal infections.
Many orchid growers make their greenhouses so that the shade cloth is removable; this way they can remove the cloth right before the strong winds and reattach it right after. This will often save their greenhouse structure. I know of one grower who attached his shade cloth with #12-14 copper wire. Because of its softness, when the winds go strong enough the twisted wires unravel, saving the shade cloth from tearing or damaging the greenhouse.
I hope we make it through November and another hurricane season. Like the coronavirus, it too will eventually pass. Until then, let's practice safe habits for ourselves and our orchids.
Here we are in the middle of our Hawaiian Summer. I hope we are taking advantage of our great weather and long days. In these summer days, our orchids can really grow and store energy for blooming. The question is: Are we taking advantage of it?
I'm hearing from some members that it is just too hot to go out into the yard and work on their orchids. I find myself spending almost every late afternoon and evening, working on my plants. It is actually recommended that, if you were to spray fertilizers or any insecticide, it should be done when the temperatures are cooling down. This way you minimize the chances of chemical burn.
Watering at night is fine. As long as you have good air circulation, you should not have fungal problems. In nature, most of the rainfall is in the afternoon and by evening the orchids are beginning to dry out. Wilbur Chang talked about how he always wanted to water his orchids in the morning. Once he retired he was able to make the change, but soon found that his orchids were not doing as well, so he went back to watering in the evening.
Living close to sea level can be challenging because the diurnal change in temperature may be only five degrees or less. Watering late may extend the change a few more degrees, which could make the difference in the blooming of a high elevation orchid.
Another benefit of evening orchid work is that you get to see what is happening at night. This is when the creepy crawlers emerge and do their damage. The main one is often our biggest problem, slugs and snails. This is their time. There are more than just the large African Snails, there are many smaller snails that may be hiding within your potting media. Tiny Bush Snails and others, often the size of a pin head, come out at night and feed on young root tips. In the day you will never see them and you may not even notice their damage to the orchid roots, but they can really set back your plants. To control them, very lightly sprinkle any commercial slug bait in and around your pots. Make sure that you do a follow up application withing two weeks, so you can kill the emerging young.
Another thing you might see are cockroaches! They come and feed on the sugars excreted by the new growths and flowers of the orchids (it’s the same thing that the lizards do in the daytime, but at least they don't actually cause damage, as some folks feel). Cockroaches can also chew, yes chew, on flowers creating damage that mimics grasshopper damage. They love cattleyas and phalaenopsis! I like to control them by spraying the Bayer 3 in 1 on the spikes and buds. This must make the taste less appealing because it seems to deter the roaches, as well as the Bulbul birds.
Australian Roof Rats are also nocturnal and if you are not baiting, you will often see them at night in the trees, telephone wires and along roofs. They love anything sweet, so they love cattleya flowers! I have actually used a half eaten flower on a snap trap to kill a huge rat.
There are also enjoyable things at night in your greenhouse. Many white or green orchids are highly fragrant at night. They are the only visible colors to the night pollinators, in which the fragrance coincides with. The one that comes to mind is the sweet fragrance of Rhyncholaelia digbyana, it will knock you off your feet, when smelt at night. I think I will go out to my orchids now and enjoy my evening.
A reminder: Please send questions and photos to Orchid ER on our website and I will be happy to try to answer your questions. A benefit for me is that it gives me ideas on what to talk about in future newsletters. So no shame, surely someone else will have the same questions!
July brings us into the long and hot days of summer. Our orchid plants should be growing fast, in fact this is when they will put on most of their growth and store the most food reserves. To take advantage of this, we need to water heavily and more frequently. Many of your mounted or hanging orchids should be watered daily or more. Take notice how fast the plants dry out. Combine this with brisk trade winds, it's amazing how much water the orchids need in the summer. For those who fail to do this, their orchids will just sputter along and just exist, but not thrive. How many of you have these types of orchids? Now we know what to change!
The summer heat brings a plethora of pest problems. I am already getting the most common complaint about flower spikes and new shoots drying up and turning brown. Of course it's the dreaded flower thrip. Remember the Bayer 3 n 1. Spray the spikes early before the damage occurs and you should get nice flowers. Another common summer pest problem is the spider mite. They cause a silver to brown damage on the under sides of the leaves. This area is a safe area that normally does not get watered. I like to water under my orchid leaves to avoid this, provide adequate spacing, and air movement. This will all help to control spider mites. The Bayer 3 n 1 will also do the trick, but make sure you treat under the leaves. This product contains an insecticide, a miticide, and a fungicide. So it will pretty much cover most of your orchids summer pests.
If you have problems you can't figure out, please do not hesitate to email your questions to WOS808@Yahoo.com and we will post answers and your questions on Orchid E. R.
Until we meet again...........keep on spending time with your orchids, it's the best way to keep social distance!
June 20th is the start of summer, and it already looks like it will be a hot one! As you know the days are getting longer, it's getting warmer, and we are having more days of strong trade winds. This means our orchids will be drying out faster and will need a lot more watering. It is also means that the orchids are sending out new growths, and will be needing more fertilizer. This is the time of year that I really make an effort to foliar feed my orchids. In doing this, I maximize their summer growths and stored energy, this will reward me with spectacular flowering later in the year.
It's also re-potting time! Many orchids are initiating new growths and sending out new roots. Repotting now will allow the new roots to bury into the fresh media and develop a strong root system. Most organic orchid mediums will breakdown (decompose) after two years or so. Definitely after two or three years, you will need to give your orchids new medium. If you are using an inorganic media such as, blue rock, cinders, etc., you can go a little longer, but eventually the medium will crash, as well as your roots and you risk loosing your orchid. So look at your orchids and check to see if the stems are shriveling and the old roots are dying, this is a sign that you need to repot. Some folks will note on the back of the label the date of each re-pot. You always want to re-pot before your orchid start to decline, this way they can "get a head of steam" and put on a spectacular flowering. Needless to say, I'm spending much of my time repotting like a madman, because I know the rewards are coming!
On April 24, 2019, UH Manoa Hamilton Library held a presentation entitled, “Journey Through the Natural Sciences in Hamilton Library’s Rare Book Collection”.
Attendees were able to look through several rare books featuring beautifully illustrated plates of orchids, birds and other animals.
One of the presenters, Sheron Harwood, WOS President, captivated the audience with her knowledge of orchid history, diversity and culture.
The books from this rare collection dated from as early as 1587!
Of particular interest was a large, bound volume published from 1837-1843, The Orchidaceae of Mexico & Guatamala.
You can see from the picture of the Cattleya Skinneri with Sheron’s hand in it, just how immense this book was.
Other pictures are a Cycnoches Egertonianum, unusual in that it has male and female flowers and a Stanhopea Martiana, unique because the flower spikes grow down from the bottom.
The detail and accuracy of these hand-drawn prints were amazing, right down to bug bites on the stems.
~ Dawn Bonak
The Windward Orchid Society meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the King Intermediate School Cafeteria, located at 46-155 Kamehameha Hwy. in Kaneohe.
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